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August 6, 2013

Swinney digs freshman class

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  • CLEMSON -- The No. 8-ranked Clemson Tigers are just four days into August Camp, but apparently head football coach Dabo Swinney has seen enough to know he's got an impressive haul of true freshmen.

    Said Swinney Tuesday night: "This is a very good freshman class from top to bottom. I really think we hit on all these guys. I like all of them. They're serious about it. Their demeanor is excellent. We didn't sign a lot of defensive linemen but the ones we got in here are going to be really good players. Same thing at linebacker, defensive back and wide receiver."

    The Tigers' last recruiting class was ranked 14th in the nation by Rivals.com and at least a half-dozen newcomers from the class are expected to avoid red-shirts, though Swinney said Tuesday he isn't yet in a position to quantify exactly how many will play this fall.

    "I want to see them scrimmage because you can see what's sticking," he said. "It's just too early right now. Probably after this first scrimmage we'll have a better feel for some guys."

    Swinney added: "Jordan Leggett is going to play. No question. And Shaq Lawson is a guy that was here in the spring. He just jumps out at you. We were just fortunate to have lost just 11 guys, so this is a veteran team. We don't want to waste a guy's year."

    Coaches could green light at least one linebacker, one running back and possibly three to five true freshmen defensive backs could see early action, given the unit's losses over the winter.

    "We're going to be good in the secondary for a while," said Swinney.

    Wednesday, day five of camp, is significant because it affords the team the first opportunity to work out in full pads. But Swinney calls the first four days of camp "an excellent start," telling reporters he sees a team that's "not afraid to work."

    "They're very coachable. If they'll continue to bring the effort they've had the last four days, we'll come out of camp feeling good about our team."

    Swinney said one player who's feeling good these days is former five-star linebacker Tony Steward, who's vying for time at the WLB position behind projected opening day starter Spencer Shuey.

    Steward, a native of St. Augustine, Fla., has been dealt two significant setbacks in two of the last three years, both torn ACLs.

    Asked if Steward has put some timidness behind him and is able to finally cut it loose, Swinney said, "Yes. It's the first time in a long time he has been able to feel like he could fully go. He's not coming back from anything now. This is the first time he's had a complete, confident look in his eye."

    Swinney said Steward clocked a 4.62-second forty-yard dash time coming off the injury a year ago, but this summer Steward's "numbers were way up."

    "He's probably the second fastest linebacker we've got now. It's all there. It's just a matter of him competing on the field. He's going to get a lot of opportunities."

    Veteran SAM backer Quandon Christian will again get his fair share of playing time in 2013. Christian, who registered 40 tackles a year ago, is one of the roster's better athletes, but according to Swinney there is another level he can reach.

    "He's just got to finish more plays this year. Everybody likes him. He's a good player. He doesn't get near the credit he deserves. He just needs to technically improve. He wasn't a good finisher at times when we've needed him to be. He's worked really hard. He's a very smart, instinctive player."

    *** Swinney said veteran place-kicker Chandler Catanzaro was placed in a pressure situation in Tuesday's practice in an attempt to simulate a game-winning opportunity. The coach said, as usual, Catanzaro was money, splitting the uprights.

    *** Swinney visited with members of the College Gameday crew Tuesday. At the tail end of practice the coach said the crew had made its way over to Pixie & Bill's for dinner.

    *** To wrap up the week, the Tigers will work out again on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday before having Sunday off. All practices are closed to the public.

    *** To chat with other Clemson fans about this article please visit The West Zone message board.

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